by Roy Harris
Periodically, serious listeners assess sound quality of stereo systems–theirs and others. They may try to access quality based upon sonic attributes such as frequency response, timbre, staging, dynamics and resolution.
Such an activity may detract from the ability to enjoy one’s recordings, and may engender equipment obsession and/or frequent buying and selling of components. Too much analysis distracts a listener from one of the purposes of owning a stereo system–an enriching emotional experience. In addition, there are benefits of a physiological and psychological nature , such as lower blood pressure and the relaxation response, which may also be affected by listening too much in the analytical mode.
It would seem therefore, that configuring a stereo system which contributes to forgetting about components may help to achieve satisfying ends, namely attaining the benefits of exposure to music that one prefers.
Let me state at the outset that the Romance 1 contributes to engagement with the music and forgetting about one’s components. The cable helps you appreciate the intrinsic beauty of the timbre of instruments and presents detail in a manner which never elicits listener fatigue or unpleasantness. You can listen to your worst recordings and not want to run out of the room.
I would be surprised if any reader had heard of the name Romance 1 cable. I became aware of the cable by chance, as I was perusing a thread on a sales site.
I tend to be realistic regarding the significance of opinions–they are both true and false, and tend to view them with a grain of salt. However, I was seduced by the nature of the positive comments nad became motivated to want to review them. There are two versions. The Romance 1 retails at $1100 and the Romance 2, costs $1600. I intend to review the Romance 2 shortly after completing this review.
These cables are distributed by Audio Surroundings, and are designed by its proprietor, Eric Love. The principal difference between the two cables is the presence of gold wire in the more expensive version. The Romance 1 differs in some respects from all other cables I have auditioned or owned in the past. Their affect upon the sound of my stereo system will be discussed shortly.
It has been my practice to review cables as a set. That is, I have generally reviewed analogue cables when I can obtain interconnect, speaker and power cable from the same company. I am making an exception because of their affect upon the performance of my stereo system.
In the Technical section, shown below, you will note that the designer has elected not to divulge certain information. I discussed his reticence to provide certain details with him. I would surmise that he wants to maintain a competitive advantage by keeping certain information unavailable to other cable designers, to prevent the replication of intellectual property.
Metal: Extremely pure and very expensive copper
Geometry: Parallel runs
Gauge: Multi gauge
Connector: Cardas Gold plated copper
Connection: Cardas Silver solder
Shielding: Double shielding, plug - to - plug–proprietary material
The shielding, which reduces RFI/EMI interference is allegedly a salient factor affecting the performance of the cable.
The first selection was Holly Cole’s recording DON’T SMOKE IN BED, track 1, Alert ZZ 81020. I first noticed space behind Holly Cole which I had never observed with other cable. Her voice had more body than usual. sibilance was reduced but not eliminated. The acoustic bass was controlled and full. Strings were dense and the frequency response was more extended than usual. The piano was resolved, in that there was no indication that any detail was missing. The keys had more weight and the body of the piano was more present than I previously experienced. The net effect was the creation of a sound closer to a live performance than previously experienced.
The second selection was a solo harpsichord recital by Sophie Yates, from the CD SCARLATTI IN IBERIA, track 1, Chandos 0635. There was greater depth. The harpsichord sounded closer to the rear of the orchestra than I have noticed using other cables. While one could observe the release of the keys, the sound was not sharp or analytical. There was more space in front of and behind the harpsichord than experienced with other cables.. The body of the instrument resonated when the keys were struck. The timbre was very realistic, and the ambience of the recording venue was revealed in a manner not previously experienced.
The third disc, PRIME CUTS, track 8, Sheffield 13333-2-V, was selected as a test of midbass. The kick drum had more impact than I heard using other cables. The high hat cymbal did not exhibit treble attenuation or sizzle. The acoustic bass was fuller sounding and the bass frequencies had greater extension than I previously observed.
The next selection was “Concerti Armonici #2”, by Wassanaer, featuring the Aradia Ensemble led by Kevin Mallon, from the Naxos disc 8.555384, track 5. My first observation was greater presence in the bass frequencies–the most extension I have heard so far. The harpsichord was full and not obscured by the strings. The strings were smooth, without a bite or excess treble harmonics. Again, there was no evidence of of any absence in musical information. The space behind the ensemble was greater than usual. Instruments were spread out without sounding artificially distant from each other.
Offenbach’s “Gaite Parisienne”, conducted by Arthur Fiedler from a JVC JVCXR 0224, track1, was my next selection. The string and brass sections exhibited smoothness, even more so than my reference cable. The width of the stage increased, occupying a space behind the speakers, almost extending wall to wall. The woodblock sounded deeper into the orchestra and fuller sounding than my reference and other cables I have auditioned or owned. The triangle was detailed without an etch or excess treble spl. Each stroke was detectable, without smearing or slurring. Dynamics were consistent with what might expect when listening at an spl between 70 and 80 db.
The last selection was Steely Dan’s AJA, track 3, MCAD 37214. Donald Fagen’s voice was full and clear. The cymbal evinced the sound of brass and its timbre was minimally inaccurate. When the chorus sang “saxophone”, the “x” constant was pronounced clearly and accurately. The chorus had more of a romantic and legato feel to it than I noticed in the past. The saxophone had more of a natural timbre than when heard using other cables. I was pleasantly surprised hearing a natural saxophone sound, given the reputation of this recording as being of poor quality. In spite of the sound quality of this disc, I found it listenable at all times.
It has been posited by many serious hobbyists that analog is a superior sonic medium to digital. While this statement is clearly opinion in nature, I believe it is shared by a sizable majority among those who have recordings through both media. During my audition of the Romance 1 cable I did not miss the absence of listening to LPs. This cable contributes to the creation of a warm sound unlike any cable I have ever heard, without masking detail.
I believe that many stereo systems are elevated in frequency response somewhere in the treble region. Consequently, their owners may become accustomed to a peaky treble, and/or a bright sound and consider such a presentation natural and/or accurate.
This cable does not present treble detail in a manner typical of most other brands. Thus, some, missing the tinkle, or sparkle, might consider the treble attenuated or understated. I do not. I believe the treble is there and presented in a manner more like the sound of real instruments and less like a recording. Some cables emphasize resolution, leading to an audible emphasis in the upper midrange/lower treble, or a somewhat analytical, fatiguing or a lean presentation. Such cables may be suitable for the highest quality recordings but may cause unpleasantness when listening to poor or mediocre quality recordings. This is not the case with the Romance 1.
The unique features of this cable, relative to others in my experience, include, greater bass fullness and extension, more natural timbre than other cables, the facility of allowing the listener to tolerate and enjoy recordings varying in sound quality without running out of the room.
The cable’s presentation of musical information allows the brain to handle variations in intensity and complexity. Some music is complex and intense. With some cables, the ability to focus on the music is compromised, because fatigue sets in after some period of time. The Romance 1 seems to preserve a near optimal level of both , when music contains multiple instruments, variations in tempi and SPL.
While exhibiting depth at all times, there was a greater sense of space in front of and behind instruments than I have ever experienced with other cables.
Finally, the cable contributes to the enjoyment of the music, while enabling one to ignore possible flaws in one’s components.
Digital Hardware: PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC
Preamp: Bent TVC passive preamp
Amplifier: VTL Deluxe 120
Speakers: Quads Unlimited Quad 57 and Magnepan 1.6
Digital Cable: Harmonic Technology HDMI
Interconnects: Ear to Ear and Soundstring
Power Cords: Ear to Ear and MAC
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Accessories: PS Audio Juice Bar, Balanced Power Technology Power Strip, Sound Fusion Sound Boosters, furniture foam, egg crate mattresses, Alan Maher Circuit Breaker Filters, Millenium weight, Ennacom filters, Room Tunes, maple wood bases and Z systems Z sleeve
Fusion Audio Romance 1 Interconnect
Price: US$1100 per metre